Blast From the Past: Gavin DeGraw Plays Rutgers University – circa 2004

Though the concert was nearly four years ago, it’s one of those nights that I remember like it was yesterday. I anxiously anticipated this concert for weeks, telling my editor at the time, Monica Rozenfeld (you can check out her blog here), that I wanted to cover the show for our college paper, The Daily Targum. True to her word, Monica hooked me up with a press pass for Gavin DeGraw’s show that semester.

I had gone to plenty of concerts before, being the concert junkie that I am — always the first to find out about an artist coming to town and constantly informing and recruiting friends to attend shows with me. But, I had never “covered” a concert. Sure, I had attended various college events and meetings and wrote about them, but it never occurred to me to catch a show and write about it — until now.

The perfect explanation of this epiphany is similar to that of the movie Almost Famous and it’s main character, student journalist Will. He just knew music reporting was what he wanted to do for a living, despite his mother’s wishes for him to become a lawyer. Well, I didn’t go on tour with Gavin, but that experience — standing front row of the concert, notepad and pen in one hand, camera in the other capturing the show — made me realize that this is what I wanted to do the rest of my life.

Below you can read my first-ever concert review. I know the first few “newsy” paragraphs are a bit boring, but I was writing a news story for the paper. I’d like to think my writing has gotten better and more intriguing over the years, though. I hope you think that as well! And, as you can tell from my very brief quote from Gavin, my interviews have gotten much better also.

Singer, heartthrob DeGraw croons into college girls’ hearts

Hundreds of students anxiously waited outside the Busch Campus Center’s Multipurpose Room Friday night for the long-awaited Gavin DeGraw concert sponsored by the Rutgers College Program Council. With a crowd of more than 400 students, excitement was in the air, and students patiently waited for the concert to begin.

Lori Smith, assistant director of Rutgers College Student Leadership, Involvement and Programs and advisor for RCPC music committee, said the concert was a part of a variety of music they try to sponsor all year long. Previously this year, RCPC sponsored many different acts including folk, jazz, hip-hop and punk. Next semester, RCPC plans to feature gospel and retro music and will also find three acts for RutgersFest.

Smith said many people expressed interest in having DeGraw come to the University, and they did what they could to get him here. “I hope students have a good time tonight and enjoy the concert and feel excited that Rutgers is bringing cutting-edge stuff here,” Smith said.

Rutgers College senior Michael Worthington, vice president of RCPC music, explained the group decided to bring DeGraw here because, “People definitely knew his music through his theme song on “One Tree Hill,” his music video and being at the Thanksgiving Day parade. We saw him as a rising star.” Worthington said tickets sold out in a day-and-a-half.

University College junior Rone Alonzo, RCPC music chair committee member, said that the group started planning the event two to three months ago. Alonzo said he was impressed with students’ reaction to the concert and that RCPC received a lot of e-mails asking about the concert. He said that he was looking forward to “a very relaxed concert with good music” and said there was a great turnout with DeGraw being the last concert of the semester.

Christina Krupinski, a Rutgers College sophomore and staff member for the event, said this was one of the better concerts this semester. “The buzz is pretty big tonight,” Krupinski said.

Worthington said that due to some late arrivals, the show started 40 minutes late. But fortunately, all groups involved – security, facilities, parking and transportation, and the student center operations – were understanding and worked with RCPC throughout the night, he said.

Opening Act from New Jersey Chris Batten and the Woods took the stage around 10 p.m. to an excited crowd, playing a 40-minute set including some songs from their albums, the 1960 song “Shake” and a Christmas song. The crowd showed much enthusiasm toward the rock ‘n’ roll band, singing along, dancing and clapping to various songs while Chris Batten, singer of the four-member band told the crowd, “Please do not be afraid to dance tonight.”

Many students were impressed with the opening act. “I really enjoyed the opening artist. They had a really original sound. Out of all the concerts I’ve seen, they were the best opening act,” said Jess Frey, a Douglass College sophomore.

Shortly after 11 p.m., Gavin DeGraw arrived on stage to a crowd chanting, “Gavin, Gavin,” and some screaming, “I love you Gavin!” DeGraw and his band performed many songs for the next hour from his album “Chariot.” Playing for an hour, some of his songs included “Just Friends,” “Crush,” “Follow Through,” “Chemical Party,” “Belief,” “Nice to Meet You Anyway” and the obvious crowd favorite “I Don’t Wanna Be,” theme song from WB show “One Tree Hill.”

DeGraw was quite the crowd pleaser, with audience members singing aloud to all of his songs and going crazy when he entered the crowd to shake hands, thanking students for attending the concert. His performance concluded with his song, “Chariot,” and he informed all who attended he would sign autographs right outside the room after the show.

Douglass College sophomore Celine Tardy, who attended the concert, said of DeGraw, “He’s a really good performer live and has an amazing voice. He really gets in touch with the audience when he sings.” She said she went to the concert because she really enjoys his music.

Tina Madan, a Rutgers College first-year student, attended the concert with some friends and said DeGraw is “an artist that has a lot of soul.”

“The concert really united many different kinds of people that were there to enjoy his music,” said Ally Tseng, a Douglass College sophomore.

Batten, the lead singer of the opening act said he really enjoyed playing Friday night. “It was great, a really amazing crowd. We really appreciated [the audience]. They were one of the best audience’s we’ve played for. It was nice to open up for a band that’s actually good.” This is the second time Chris Batten and the Woods played at the University, the only college they have played at. Batten said the group previously performed at the University last year for Livingston College’s Springfest.

And after spending the evening performing at Jingle Ball, Gavin DeGraw came to the University and stayed until 1 a.m. signing autographs, where he said he enjoyed playing at the University. “I had a great time. It’s as good as the people think it is,” Degraw said.

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